Unlike deontological and utilitarian normative ethical theories, which emphasize impartial principles, the ‘ethics of care’ approach to normative ethics emphasizes our relationships, and our interdependence, with other people.
Proponents of this approach to ethics, first developed by feminist philosophers of the late 20th century, claim that the dominant normative ethical theories – namely deontology and utilitarianism – overlook, and fail to account for, the basic structure of our relationships to others. Included in this structure are partial commitments to other people founded on caring, which involves emotional responsiveness to particular circumstances and situations and a desire to thoughtfully maintain human relationships.
The ethics of care seeks to highlight the importance of sensitivity, concern for others, and emotional responsiveness in shaping moral life.
Not unlike virtue ethics, the ethics of care view stresses the importance of moral education. This education includes nurturing the disposition to care for others and developing attentiveness to the needs of others and an awareness of our inevitable interdependence with others (a basic assumption of the ethics of care view).
In a corporate financial context, the ethics of care might find expression in a corporation’s policies – and the formulation of policies – towards its employees and stakeholders. A corporation might, for example, demonstrate responsiveness to the needs of its employees by involving them in policies that regulate their place in the daily operations of the company.